Can The U.S. Really Become Energy Independent?

The short answer is yes, according to this NPR report that includes interviews with energy experts. The boom in shale fracking for oil and natural gas and the zeal of small energy companies is to credit. But UC Berkeley's Don Kammen has his doubts.

John Ydstie presents a surprisingly optimistic forecast from some experts.

"Energy self-sufficiency is now in sight," says energy economist Phil Verleger. He believes that within a decade, the U.S. will no longer need to import crude oil and will be a natural gas exporter. It's not the result of government policy or drilling by big oil...but small energy companies using such controversial techniques as hydraulic fracturing, along with horizontal drilling, unlocking vast oil and natural gas deposits".

In agreement is Amy Myers Jaffe, of Rice University's Baker Institute.

Considering that according to the Energy Information Agency, "the United States imported about 49% of the petroleum... that we consumed during 2010", Verleger's forecast might seem unreasonably optimistic.

Another expert interviewed, while agreeing with Verleger, uses the term "energy security" rather than independence "because most oil imports will come from Canada, not unstable places like the Middle East."

Also interviewed is Dan Kammen, a professor in the energy and resource group at the University of California, Berkeley, who would prefer to see increased use of renewable sources of energy rather than increased mining of domestic fossil fuels.

Not reported is the often quoted factoid that "America owns 3 percent of the world's oil but consumes 25 percent of its global reserves" (Rep. Gerry Connolly, House floor speech, May 3, 2011). In fact, according to Truth-O-Meter of the Tampa Bay Times, it's 1.5% and 22%, respectively.

Full Story: Is U.S. Energy Independence Finally Within Reach?

Comments

Comments

There is no short answer. Even so, it is absolutely not "Yes."

Let me first say that the article does *not* conclude, "Yes, energy independence is within reach." A couple of consultants opine as much, but no true economist worth her salt would ever, EVER, say this.

I'm frankly surprised that NPR would want to perpetuate this techno-fantasy that we're doing "just fine" on the energy front. The truth is that the US is in one of the most precarious positions when it comes to liquid fuel dependence. How much of our heavy machinery or transportation vehicles can run on natural gas?

I believe there is a lot of merit to the strategy of re-tooling as much of our oil-based infrastructure to natural gas as possible, but only to buy us time through what appears to be an imminent unstable period of peaking global oil supply and price shocks, after which, sure, we could (and probably will) spend our last days of civilization as we know it burning through and fighting over the last beaker of dino-juice coming out of the ground.

In the end, fossil fuels are a finite resource, right? Unfortunately our government's structure and culture of influence are preventing any kind of long-range thinking on this issue. We're just kicking the can down the road and letting the next generation (if we're lucky) deal with it.

Energy descent.

I'm frankly surprised that NPR would want to perpetuate this techno-fantasy that we're doing "just fine" on the energy front.

They have been in decline for several years after having BushCo republicans infiltrate their organization. Still better than most things out there, but one must be careful now. Nevertheless, we are in energy descent but it does no good for corporate bottom lines to tell anyone.

Best,

D

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